UPDATE (May 2016): I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t post an update to this entry. Over time, the Wesco proved disappointing in the extreme. Some of the time, it could only be made to work by removing the fancy green sleeve. It was intermittent at best. Nobody else in the family could use it. I replaced it, in the end, with a Peugeot.
I have never once been satisfied with a pepper mill. I was so disillusioned with them that I have been relying on a pestle and mortar for a couple of years. I can confirm, however, that when you need a pinch of pepper in a hurry, this system is a pain in the arse.
Pepper grinders have a number of issues. Wear and tear is a problem. The wooden kind are especially prone to cracking or breaking when dropped, and repeated opening and closing can cause wear. The very act of using it creates fatal wear and tear. Stainless steel models tend to be ugly, and the battery powered electric models are overpriced and not very good. I reserve special disdain for the over-sized pepper mill, which might make sense in a restaurant, but not elsewhere. All I’ve tried tend to be fiddly to fill, and the grinding underside tends to get clogged up, vulnerable as it is to the humid atmosphere of the kitchen. The worst sin, in my eyes, is the anaemic quantity of pepper produced when you grind. I don’t want to stand grinding away for ages to get the amount I need.
In France, in my favoured equipment
porn shop, Ambence et Styles, they charge a fortune for pepper grinders – probably because they can get away with it. Like many of life’s purchasing decisions, you really want to try one of these things for quite a long while before committing yourself. Bicycle saddles. Shoes. It wasn’t so much that I objected to the price, but I wanted to understand why. Why, for example, is a pepper grinder at €60 better than one from the supermarket that costs €7 (I did in fact get one for that price in Cora last year, which is okay)?
I’ve occasionally gone for the option of buying peppercorns with a grinder built into the lid of the jar. These tend to last long enough, and yet it seems so wasteful to throw it away when it inevitably stops working efficiently.
Clearly, as with coffee grinders, ceramic is the key material. This Wesco grinder from John Lewis has ceramic grinders and what they call CrushGrind technology. It also has a metal body in a range of pleasant colours, which covers a glass interior. I love the looks, and chose mint, mainly because I want to get away from the tyranny of having kitchen appliances in matching colours. We’re all over the place, which is how I want it.
Easy to fill, you screw the metal body over the top and store it, unusually with the grinder pointing upwards, with a plastic cap to protect it from spills and humidity. It’s heavy, even when empty, and has a pleasing heft. The grinder is adjustable – from coarse to fine – and a few twists produces a pleasing quantity of pepper.